August 5, 2020, 07.07 PM

The Agadez program was set up the following year to jump-start small businesses for former smugglers.

It was one of more than 200 such projects launched in 26 African countries, and one of 12 in Niger.

All told, EUTF projects have created over 66,000 jobs in Africa, the fund’s website says.

Since its genesis, EU data show, about 42 percent of the more than 2,300 business plans submitted in Agadez have been approved for funding.

Of those applicants with approved business plans, the data show, less than half have received the assistance.

Twenty people from Agadez who identified themselves as former smugglers told Reuters they had submitted applications in 2017 — sometimes more than one.

They said they either received no assistance or not enough to replace lost livelihoods.

Some also said the application process was infuriatingly complex and time-consuming.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm most individual stories, because the applicants did not keep copies of their business proposals and correspondence, and the EU would not address questions about individual cases.

However, the EU official said it was “unrealistic” to match the kind of compensation ex-smugglers used to earn trafficking migrants.

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